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Arrests Begin in New York

Reuters | August 27 2004

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Protests -- and arrests -- have begun in New York, days before the start of the Republican convention, where President George W. Bush will be nominated for re-election in a city that voted overwhelmingly for his opponent four years ago.

About a dozen AIDS activists stripped naked and stopped traffic outside New York's Madison Square Garden on Thursday to demand that Bush help developing countries fight the epidemic. They were taken away in handcuffs.

And police led two men away after they descended on ropes down the face of the iconic Plaza Hotel to drop a huge banner displaying two opposing arrows -- with "Truth" pointing one way, and "Bush" pointing in the opposite direction.

Security is ultra-tight in New York, which remains on high alert for another strike almost three years after 2,800 people died at the World Trade Centre in the September 11 attacks. The Bush administration singled out the New York convention and the Democrats' nominating meeting in Boston last month as attractive terrorist targets.

More volatile confrontations threatened during the weekend, as demonstrators seemed bent on gathering in the city's famed Central Park despite court rulings barring protests there.

The anti-war ANSWER group -- denied a permit for 75,000 people to rally in the park on Saturday -- said they will gather there anyway before the August 30-September 2 convention.

Organisers of a march against Bush administration policies and the Iraq war on Sunday -- which Organisers expect to bring more than 200,000 protesters past Madison Square Garden -- said they expect people to go to the park afterward.